Energy transition: where is long-term thinking in offshore wind energy?

22 September 2020 - Published by Jonas Nørgård Larsen
Offshore wind energy with a focus on the North Sea region and its dominant countries is developing to the disadvantage of Germany. In addition, Asia is gaining considerable market share in this area. Offshore wind turbines require long-term planning, which must also include decommissioning. There are two major shutdown cycles over the next decade. The status of the preparations in the respective countries is discussed critically. Open questions about adapting to the challenges arising from the decommissioning are highlighted and possible answers are presented.

The short-term orientation in politics is currently experiencing a new high point in the face of the corona pandemic, described as “driving on sight”. While this behavior makes sense in the short term when there is uncertainty, a lack of long-term perspective is problematic in other areas. One example of this is the development of offshore wind energy, which exemplarily shows how erratic signals from politics and a lack of planning security can slow down a sector. Germany was previously represented here with a prominent role, but a clearly divergent development can be observed between the states of the North Sea region. Trends and scenarios also suggest that this structure will solidify.

The very short-term orientation is also problematic with regard to the necessary dismantling of offshore wind turbines. The thought of dismantling is counter-intuitive at first, as the discussion mostly revolves around building new capacities. However, it should not be overlooked that wind turbines also have a limited service life and that this is lower than with systems on land, especially on the high seas due to extreme weather conditions and difficult maintenance conditions. With an estimated duration of around 20 years, the issue of the dismantling of offshore systems, especially in the European North Sea region, will become increasingly urgent in the coming years when several wind farms reach this critical age. In view of this predictable development, it is remarkable that the necessary conditions have not yet been created. Germany is no exception.

Learn more about the newest market analysis from WP3 by Mirko Kruse, MA and Junior Researcher at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI). The article is published in a German Economic Journal and available here: